REAL ESTATE

AN ARM’S DEALER’S PENTHOUSE

433283_Adnan-Khashoggi

It was 1990 and I was a fresh faced young Real Estate Paralegal with a major law firm in New York City.  Paralegals did everything that needed to be done in connection with getting deals done.  I was no exception.  If it meant getting rolling on a deal Monday morning which lasted straight through to Thursday afternoon (with shower breaks every 18 hours or so) I did it.  There were many of those.  Or if it meant I was immediately sent out to Seattle to perform due diligence for an Assisted Facility REIT for a client – I did it.  That happened a few times.  There were no cell phones at the time so a hastily written love note to my bride and a voice mail message on the home phone informing her I would call when I got to my hotel room in Seattle or West Virginia or Pennsylvania (or wherever I was going) was the order of the day.  My wife is wonderful and understood. 

There were times when I would come into the office at 9:30 a.m. (law firms start at 9:30) and be summoned into a partner’s office immediately.  The partner would be barking a command at me as I entered the palatial wall to wall windowed office overlooking the Manhattan skyline.  It never began with a good morning only a run-on rattle of orders.  One morning before I even got my coat off I was summoned into a very serious looking Partners office.  “Sit down”.  I sat.  “Listen, you are going to have to go over and appraise the condition of a very infamous person’s penthouse”, he said.  I nodded, listening intently, now on the edge of my seat.  “I am going to send you with an armed guard”.  “What!?!?”  I said.  He then proceeded to tell me that the firm was representing a major lending institution which had an interest in the Adnan Khashoggi penthouse at 641 Fifth Avenue right across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Good I thought to myself I could dash in for confession and Last Rites before I went up there – it sounded dangerous.

“Why do you think I need an armed guard”? I said.  He said, “well you know he is a major arms dealer and has been in the news lately with the Iran Contra situation.”  He has had many wild parties up there, orgies, etc… and it could be dangerous.  We don’t know who you will find in the apartment.”  “And you want to send me?”  “Yup!” was the response.  “I will arrange to hire an armed guard for you” he said.  I told him that I had an armed guard, my cousin was an NYPD detective and a big sucker.  He was so big that when I stood behind him you couldn’t see me at all.  I negotiated his salary and transportation and scheduled the appointment.  We arrived at the Penthouse early one brisk morning.  My body guard assured me he had extra clips just in case.  I felt very secure.

The Olympic Tower is located at 641 Fifth Avenue (Mid-town East) and is 51-stories high.  The building was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and was probably the first if not one of the first mixed use zoned for Fifth Avenue. The structure was constructed as a joint venture with Aristotle Onassis (second husband to Jackie Kennedy) and his company, Victory Development, in partnership with Arlen Realty and Development. 

The mixed use building features offices, condominiums and high-end retail at the ground level including the NBA offices. Unfortunately there are no pets allowed, and based on the rouges gallery of tenants, owners and occupants animals would be a big improvement.

The penthouse with 360 views of Manhattan was the product of 12 combined apartments.  It had about 12 rooms including five bedrooms, six baths (with bidets which at the time amused and confounded me), a  swimming pool, indoor gardens, a ballroom, an in the wall media center, a sauna, an office, an industrial size kitchen, maids rooms, a guest apartment and more.  I sat on the bed and pressed buttons on a remote control.  One opened up the drapes, one revealed an in the wall bar and entertainment center, another turned the TV on and off, another dropped a movie screen down (remember this was 1990).  Thankfully no one but the maid was in the apartment and the preview/appraisal of condition was uneventful.  Needless to say my body-guard and I were awed. 

Can you imagine the commission fees on this baby?  My mouth is watering now.  Maybe I should get licensed in New York too.

The New Jersey listings thankfully are less notorious but no less glamorous.  There are so many beautiful estates on bucolic grounds and it is a pleasure and honor to preview every home that is coming on the market be it a cottage or a manse.  Happy house hunting.   

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